Baru, Buhari and fuel scarcity
Sir: The current fuel scarcity in Nigeria has challenged Mr. Maikanti Baru’s position as Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and also tested his leadership qualities at a critical moment, a moment in which, due to some economic factors, the NNPC is the sole importer of Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS).
Though it is a temporary situation, but the eyes of all Nigerians and President Muhammadu Buhari are fixed on the NNPC to the entire nation. Most observers in the oil and gas industry sympathize with both President Buhari, who himself is the Minister of Petroleum and Baru. Baru, whose strides in the downstream sector within one year have brought impeccable achievements, now has those achievements being over shadowed by fuel scarcity during a festive season.
Fuel scarcity in Nigeria easily irritates most Nigerians. It also puts any NNPC GMD on the edge of his or her seat. Acute scarcity of petroleum products in Nigeria dates back to the early days of oil production in the country. It tends to be frustrating to know that many factors are responsible for the scarcity of petroleum products. However, it placates that the feasible and lasting solution is always simple- but often difficult to implement due to its complicated political nature. 2018 is practically a year for politicking and no government hoping for re-election would take a gamble, certainly. Baru and his team know this. The Buhari administration was lucky to have taken some stringent decisions concerning the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry without any public backlash, with Buhari’s integrity and honesty being responsible for the public understanding.
Baru’s doggedness to resolve the fuel scarcity has brought fruitful results as the queues in Abuja and Lagos have shrunk, while other parts of the country are witnessing improvement. But Baru has more challenges ahead- to sustain the achievements as well as offer the nation a feasible, lasting and easy to-swallow solution. Though, any solution that Baru proffers requires political and economic endorsement of both the executive and legislative arms of the government.
Nigerians already know some of the short and long term solutions to the recurring fuel scarcity- continued massive importation by the NNPC which is unarguably expensive and unsustainable; re-introduction of the subsidy regime which is corruption- prone; complete liberalisation or deregulation which comes with a high price, public backlash and job losses, while construction of new refineries and rehabilitation of the existing ones are capital intensive and an extremely time consuming process.
Baru faces a challenge while also in a position to write his name in the sands of time, being a GMD who has the total support of Buhari. Baru needs to bring on board and develop home-grown and off-the-shelf approaches to create a lasting stability in fuel availability in Nigeria while at same time making sure the masses do not feel any pinch. as well as will be in complete agreement with such solutions. It is possible but with a new thinking.
Zayyad Muhammad Jimeta wrote from Adamawa State.
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